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Descent of the Ganges (or Arjuna's Penance)

Listed under Works of Art in Chennai, India.

  • Photo of Descent of the Ganges (or Arjuna's Penance)
  • Photo of Descent of the Ganges (or Arjuna's Penance)
  • Photo of Descent of the Ganges (or Arjuna's Penance)
Photo of Descent of the Ganges (or Arjuna's Penance)
Photo by flickr user babasteve
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The waters of the river Ganges have been revered as a gift from the heavens for many centuries, and are still believed by many to grant salvation and health to the living, and offer a direct path to heaven for the dying.

The river itself, and its personification in the form of the goddess Ganga, have featured in the Rig-Veda and in many Hindu legends, and the incredible bas-relief carvings on the famous limestone monolith at Mamallapuram City form one of the most impressive tributes to the sacred river to be found anywhere.

The monolith stands proudly at fifteen feet tall and a hundred long, one of the largest and finest of its kind in the world, and it is smothered in lifelike carvings of humans, elephants, gods and mythical monsters, intertwined and marching in lines across every inch. The rock is divided by a deep cleft, which may once have carried water down from a collecting pool at the top to represent the descent of the Ganges from heaven.

The figures are commonly believed to represent the goddess Ganga and her tributaries and other legendary figures, but the alternative interpretation of the bas-relief as depicting the penance performed by Arjuna in payment for Shiva’s help in battle has also been suggested.

Written by  larapiegeler.

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